Hardware Lust Satisfied: Airport Express

Because The Spouse is writing this, we’ve purchased an Apple Airport Express. I’ve been interested in the Airport Express right from the start, and I have to say, it’s even better than I’d expected.

The first one we bought was a dud; it just wasn’t working, so I took it back to the Apple Store, who exchanged it without a problem, and I walked home with a new one ten minutes after I arrived at the store. Once we had a working model, the setup was less than ten minutes. It’s connected to the stereo receiver in our living room, using a standard RCA to Miniplug cable (the jack supports an optical connection as well). We took the option in the Airport Setup to have the Express dedicated to broadcasting music through the stereo— we could have also used it to expand the range of our Airport Base Station, but in a two bed room apartment, that seemed a little foolish. There’s also a USB port, so you could use the Keyspan Express Remote Control, or share a USB printer, and a standard 10/100 Base-T Ethernet port.

Why do I like it? For the past couple of years, I’ve done most of my writing on my iBook, on the couch. With the Express, I can wirelessly play my iTunes music, both my purchased songs and songs I’ve ripped from CDs, through the stereo. That’s pretty nifty, but what’s even cooler, is that since my computer is authorized on my spouse’s iTunes account, I can also play his iTunes songs, remotely or locally. And we can stream music from any of our computers to the living rooms speakers.

Plus, since the Express is tiny, it’s exceedingly portable— we can take it with us on our next trip, and share an Ethernet connection wirelessly, with up to ten computers.

I can see myself borrowing the Airport Express to take to campus and plug in to the classroom, to be able to play through the built-in classroom AV system without having to arrange for an AV person to bring special equipment and string long annoying cables.

I bet Airport Expresses are going to be very, very popular in the dorms this fall.

It’s Not Dirty, and It’s Not a Secret

Despite the apparent media frenzy about iPod battery life and the Neistat brother’s web site about their battery woes, my iPod is doing fine, thanks. My spouse and I bought each other original 5 gig iPods for our wedding anniversaries back in November of 2001. We’re both still using them regularly. My iPod is good for about six hours before it needs charging, less than when it was new, but it’s had a lot of use in the more than two years I’ve had it. I back up files to it, connect it to our stereo, use in teaching, and when I walk around town, or campus, or ride the bus. You’d think, given the media’s foaming at the mouth-and-rubbing-their-hands-with glee that everybody was unhappy.

I also find it more than a little distressing that no one seems worried that the QuickTime movies at their site show the Neistat brothers vandalizing some rather expensive bill boards. I sympathize with their dismay about their batteries, and, apparently Apple did too, since it offered both a battery replacement service and AppleCare for iPods, before the Neistat’s contacted Apple. Vandalism is not acceptable, no matter how angry one might be; it’s still wanton destruction. Much better to follow Apple’s iPod battery careand use tips, and use the information in this well written iPod battery FAQ.

Apple’s X-Serve

Today Apple announced their new high end industrial strength priced to sell (starting at $2999) X-Serve rack-mounted servers (I’m going to call them Rack Macs). For you hardware fanatics, the specs are here, but you’ve got lots of storage, and space to grow. Plus, the hardware is designed so you can use it headless, with built in security features, including locks, and status lights, and remote monitoring (including the necessary software).

But as nifty (see what they are saying at SlashDot) as these boxes are, I’m more excited about the software.

X-Serve boxes come with OS X server 10.x, so that means they’re Unix with a super GUI as well as command line access and SSH2, IP filtering, firewall, DHCP, LDAP, NetInfo. They have multi-platform support for file services and the usual FTP. But OS X is Unix, so you also have Apache, Mail (SMTP, POP, IMAP), WebDAV, SSL, PHP, MySQL, JavaServer Pages, Java Servlets, Perl, Mac CGI, and all the usual Unix and high end server stuff, as well as Apple’s own Web Objects deployment, and QuickTime Streaming server.

This strikes me as a great server for Higher Ed users and developers, either as a web server or a streaming server. But looking at what it ships with, and keeping in mind Apple’s support for standards like CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System WebDav and Web Services, to the point that XML as a core service even via QuickTime XML import and XML event-based parsing and Apple Script XML-RPC and SOAP requests, not to mention Carbon instructions for making an XML-RPC call, I can’t help but think this is a great deployment platform for instructional support. I’m especially intrigued by the possibilities of WebObjects, with open source technologies, and of course, blogging.